This past Friday marked the first time in many years I was actually able to sit around the table and play some good old fashioned AD&D (although that is somewhat subjective considering we played 2e). I was quite surprised by the turnout as we had seven players in total. I'll have more on the adventure we ran in a later post here. Two of the people who joined us are a married couple. I have played DnD on occasion with the husband, and he was brought up playing 2e even though he is a few years younger than the rest of our group. He and his wife have recently been playing 4th edition, and they seem to really enjoy the system.
During one of our breaks early in the adventure, his wife, who has recently just started playing the game entirely, and has started with 4th edition, posed the question to me; why are you playing an older edition? Why not try 4th edition? I found myself in a somewhat awkward position in trying to answer this question for several reasons. First of all, I have no experience playing either 3rd, 3.5, or 4th edition. After seeing how they watered down the rules (even further from 2e) in these later editions, and completely changed most of the system in general in 4th edition, I just felt it was nothing I wanted to try to experience. Second, how do you explain the problems you have with these editions without insulting the person asking the question? Again, I have said this before on this blog, but I have no problem with anyone playing these later editions if that's what they enjoy. Yet here I have a relative newbie to the game in general asking me why I'm not using 4th edition. What I wanted to tell her was simply, the game that is currently sold as Dungeons and Dragons is DnD in name alone, and nothing more.
I wanted to tread carefully with the question because when you knock the edition they play, especially if it's the only one they are familiar with, they may suddenly feel as if their intelligence has been insulted. I could rail on for hours about the various reasons I dislike the newer editions (completely changing the rules, making it more suitable for munchkins, the addition of cash grabs like "fortune cards," the fact that their sourcebooks for their settings are some of the worst products for the money I've ever seen in the RPG market, etc.). And while I could do this, I was talking to a person who actually enjoys the edition. So, the only thing I really could tell her was, wait and see why I enjoy the older versions so much more. My reasoning was I'm going to show as a DM, rather than tell, what it is that makes the older editions so much greater.
As the game went on, the PC's deviated from the somewhat loosely structured plan I had for the adventure (which is par for the course naturally), and some of the decisions they made along the way weren't helping matters or aiding them in getting anywhere in the quest they'd agreed to partake upon. As the game ended for the night, however, I felt confident that she and her husband both enjoyed the session, and I expect to see them back when we play next month. I'm not quite sure if it's really sunk in for her why the older editions are actually better, but I'm hoping that in time, she'll understand what makes them so great.